Imagine being whisked down your favorite trail by your faithful companion, exploring new terrain in the backcountry, and getting exercise all at once. Dog-joring, like ski-joring, is one of the fastest-growing winter sports and can be a fun way for you and your dog(s) to enjoy each other's company. Almost any type of dog can learn, young or old, and if your dog weighs 35 pounds or more, chances are it will make a perfect partner.
Only three basic pieces of equipment are needed to get started: a belt, a harness, and a towline (one place you can buy them is alpinehusky.net).
Put your dog into the harness a few times to get her used to it before going on the trail. She may buck around like a rodeo bull, but eventually most dogs like having it on. Hook your dog to your belt and take him around a familiar trail, preferably flat, and know how to ski beforehand (as dumb as this may sound, getting dragged down the trail by your dog is not fun). Keep runs short so you don't overexert your dog and yourself. Making it fun will make your dog want to do it rather than slink under the couch when you pull out the harness.
A great way to get an early start is to bike-jor in the dry months to learn technique and commands. The four basic commands to learn are “Gee” (turn right), “Haw” (turn left), “On By” (when they want to stray off trail), and “Whoa!” (stop). Always say “Good Dog!” and give plenty of treats. Dogs love to please.
Once you have mastered the basics, start using a sled to haul gear. Always remember to be aware of the weather, know winter-survival skills, and bring plenty of water, food, extra clothing, and a first aid kit.
Bozeman recently opened a new 37-acre off-leash recreation area for dogs (see page 11) so you and your pooch can roam free and not worry about “The Man” hitting you with his Hum-V. West Yellowstone has also caught on and will open its own dog-friendly Boundary Trail this winter. The trail starts in town at the end of Boundary Street and makes a loop to the Baker's Hole Campground (about seven miles roundtrip). This coss-country ski trail will be groomed regularly throughout the snowy season under a cooperative management between the Forest Service, West Yellowstone Chamber of Commerce, and the West Yellowstone Ski Education Foundation.
- O/B Store